Author: Karen Harrington
Published: April 1, 2008
Page Count: 256
My Rating: 3/5
Jane, a loving mother of two, has drowned her toddler son and is charged with his murder in this powerful examination of love, loss, and family legacy. When a prosecutor decides Jane’s husband Tom is partially to blame for the death and charges him with “failure to protect,” Tom’s attorney proposes a radical defense. He plans to create reasonable doubt about his client’s alleged guilt by showing that Jane’s genealogy is the cause of her violence, and that she inherited her latent violence in the same way she might inherit a talent for music or a predisposition to disease. He argues that no one could predict or prevent the tragedy, and that Tom cannot be held responsible. With the help of a woman gifted with the power of retrocognition—the ability to see past events through objects once owned by the deceased—the defense theory of dark biology takes form. An unforgettable journey through the troubled minds and souls of Jane’s ancestors, spanning decades and continents, this debut novel deftly illustrates the ways nature and nurture weave the fabric of one woman’s life, and renders a portrait of one man left in its tragic wake.
I’ve been meaning to read Janeology for a LONG time now. Back when the book was first published, a bunch of book bloggers toured the book and I was very intrigued by the premise and interested to see how it actually played out in the book. I’m glad my local library finally had a copy so that I could finally see for myself what all the fuss was about.
I liked Janeology, I did not love it. The premise itself is the most interesting thing about this book, but unfortunately I didn’t feel what I was expecting to feel while reading the book. I really thought that I’d feel intense compassion, sympathy, and other emotions for Tom and even Jane herself but I didn’t feel very connected to these characters at all. In a book dealing with such a sensitive topic as the murdering of ones’ own children, I assumed there would be a lot of emotions in the mix – which there were, from the characters themselves, but for some reason those emotions did not transfer appropriately to me while I was reading the novel.
What I did like about the book was how thought-provoking it was. I always take such interest in these types of stories when they are in the headlines, and it is always my natural assumption to think that there has to be some reason why somebody would do something SO awful as kill somebody that they love (whether it be children, parents, siblings, etc.). A mother killing her own children is so above and beyond anything a “normal” person could imagine doing that it makes us think, as a society, even harder about how such a thing could happen. My natural inclination is to believe that no sane person would do something like that – there has to be something in that woman’s background that would make her so abnormal, so messed up to have such a huge break from reality and do something so awful to her own flesh and blood. So Janeology was very interesting to me as Harrington really explored this concept in detail.
Much of the book focused on Jane’s experiences growing up, on the factors throughout her life that could have possibly been the build-up for her committing such an atrocious crime. What is fascinating to me is that the types of experiences Jane had were terrible, of course, yet I know thousands of people suffered the same kinds of things as children – yet they did not kill their own kids and Jane did. Keep in mind this is a work of fiction, but I think it draws stunning parallels to real life. Women DO kill their own children, and as a society we desperately try to figure out why. This book gives some ideas but by no means does Harrington try to explain this horrific thing that some women have done.
Overall, Janeology is an incredibly interesting and thought-provoking read that I think many fiction readers will really enjoy. Although I did have a few minor issues with the book, I did like it and would recommend the novel.
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